Long days and dirty hands: Ranch wife and mother Cia Stull

Bidders are nodding bids to an auctioneer in Brush, Colorado. Behind him is the cacophony that is a sale barn; a cow is bellowing, a bull hauler’s truck sits and idles, men speak on their cell phones, and the hands moving cattle come to the ring and back out again. To the auctioneer’s right on a computer is Cia Stull and she’s not missing a thing.

Stull, a rancher from Fleming, Colorado, and her husband, Trey, the local brand inspector, run about 350 mother cows and 70 goats on their ranch in the northeast corner of the state. Their three children help on the operation as well.


The Stulls of Fleming, Colorado, have their hands full raising cattle, goats, and kids.

Not only as a sale clerk but also as a rancher, she has watched the cattle market in the past months and knows, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that efficiency has to be part of the plan to stay afloat in tough times. On the Stull Ranch, managing to prevent open cows and does, hard weaning calves and kids that go off feed, and animals with any nutrient deficiencies have to be avoided.

The Stulls raise a number of commercial cattle that benefit from additional protein and mineral supplements but the show cattle and show goats they raise also had unique nutritional needs.

“We feed Concept-Aid goat mineral year round,” she said. “We also feed our does Sure Champ before and after kidding for the extra minerals. It’s an extra boost and lessens the stress they’re under.”


Mineral supplements are a proven piece to the puzzle for many producers. Vita Charge Stress Tubs can make doing what is necessary a bit easier.

The Stulls utilize Vita Charge Stress Tubs for two weeks for every calf they wean on the ranch. The surface area allows her to ensure every calf is consuming their share and for Stull, that’s one less thing to worry about.

“I don’t mind putting out the 200 pound tubs to the mama cows,” she said. “If I’m feeding calves, though, I love the 50 pound tubs.”

Stull, who is no slacker, can recruit help to load the large tubs and then push them off the bed of the pickup. Necessity often dictates being creative, however, the smaller tubs have proven popular with Stull and other producers as they’re easier to handle.

Since using the Stress Tubs, Stull hasn’t had to doctor sick calves. For this busy mama who is trying to hang on during a tumultuous market, that matters.

“We don’t ever want to lose any calves,” she said. “We never want that but with the market as it is, we can’t afford to lose one or have one sick. We need every penny.”

The Stulls market their calves as all natural, which has proven to entice a premium and makes the health advantages of the Vita Charge Stress Tubs all the more valuable.

“The Stress Tubs are cost effective for us,” she said. “We use them for a week to two weeks before weaning and then a week following weaning. The small tubs get the calves on weaning faster and that’s valuable.”

In addition to the Stress Tubs, the Stulls feed creep feed containing Sure Champ and Gain Smart Protein 37 to the calves being prepared for sale. She and Trey had a high number of open cows several years ago, which led them to begin using the products. Her belief in the products led her to become a dealer and to make the products readily available. cia-3

The women involved in production agriculture, like Cia Stull, share commonalities, long days, and dirty hands. They also share a role in keeping their operations running efficiently with healthy, thriving livestock. For her, and many like her, surviving a volatile market comes down to management decisions and the minerals and protein supplements from VitaFerm were one of the easy decisions.

This post is sponsored by Vitaferm but the opinions are entirely my own. For more information, or to find your own dealer like Cia, please visit http://www.vitaferm.com.


Faith in Black and White

The following blog post appeared two years ago but it was on my mind this weekend when I was given a treasure. When Jim and Shelly Gabel married 38 years ago last month, her mother threw a recipe shower. Shelly has a box stuffed with recipes from the shower and she had a recipe for tortillas that she shared with me. It bears Mary Arnold’s address, Mary is Shelly’s mother who passed away earlier in the year. She was famous for her cooking and her squash blossom necklaces and I was glad to know her for the brief time I did.

The cookbook pictured is from the Volga German communities around Ellis County, Kansas, where I went to college. Looking through it made me happy…and hungry.



My mom kept herself busy while in school at Baylor University deciphering the letters my grandmother sent her. Really bad handwriting apparently skips a generation.
Knowing this, I couldn’t help but smile while unpacking the other day when I ran across a scrapbook my mom made me. She titled it In Their Own Hand: My Grandmothers’ Recipes. I flipped through the pages and could hear my grandmothers’ voices, which is not to say that I could read June’s recipe for green rice (I think?…) in her scrawled hand. Green rice? Maybe. 20140630-231928-83968585.jpg

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Colorado FFA President Emma Mortensen: Tips for Efficient 4-H and FFA meetings

A few things set Emma Mortensen, Brush, Colorado, apart from the crowd. She is lovely and kind in addition to being intelligent- she’ll be heading to Texas Tech University in the fall. She is fun to watch in the show ring because she possesses a natural grace and seriousness that shine through. She’s also poised and is spending time polishing her already professional and approachable personality spending a year serving Colorado FFA as the state president.

Mortensen, center, and the current Colorado FFA Officer Team.

Here are Mortensen’s tips for 4-H and FFA members (and parents, leaders, and advisors) for more efficient meetings.

Mortensen has a deep love for the FFA Parliamentary Procedure contest and her two years as a contestant, paired with her FFA experience in the Brush chapter under Ms. Shannon Baylie and now at the state level, have made her a deft Continue reading

Honesty in the Picture Pen

We see gobs and scads of cattle photos- show cattle, bulls, and females- daily on Facebook, online auctions, and in the stacks of catalogs that find their way to our mailbox. Some of the photos are poor photos, some of the photos are great, and some of them have been obviously altered.

This photo of Gabel Farms’ Thug is one of my favorites. He was a tremendous steer no matter how you looked at him.

The name of the game in taking livestock photos is to make a good one look even better and doing so is a craft I take seriously. I also take seriously the fact that my family’s reputation or the reputation of my client lives in that photo.

When I began, I took a casual photo of some heifers Continue reading

Three things to look for in a content writer for your ag website

The pictures of the cattle look great, the photos of calving season, the show steers, replacement heifers, or bulls are ready for their debut. Your web designer is on point with a great header and a shiny new logo. The website looks amazing!

A great web designer needs solid content to best represent your farm or ranch.

Now you need content… Here are a few things to look for in a great content writer for your ag website.

You need someone versed in SEO writing: Search Engine Optimization writing is using key words to help Google search engines return your site to potential customers on the Continue reading

Scotch caps and squash blossoms

Scotch caps and squash blossoms. Her grandfather had a scotch cap, she remembers the rough wool and whiskers. Her grandmother had a squash blossom. It was her signature piece. A chambray shirt, a swipe of lipstick, and a squash blossom necklace.

It’s function and flirt, leather and lace. One defines functionality, the other beauty and class. Today it is 15 years since grandpa hung up his scotch cap and five since mom wore grandma’s squash blossom to her funeral. Today it’s the granddaughter who wears both the scotch cap and the squash blossom.

 She is a woman who periodically pulls a trailer through the carpool lane Continue reading

Write This Down

In gathering writing samples at the request of an editor unfamiliar with my work, I was sorting through the numerous pieces I’ve written since Mildred Brodbeck first put my name in print when I was in middle school.

Though there are a number of published pieces- two freelance assignments that required

me to go behind the walls of a maximum security prison and interview two drastically different


I love a good story!

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Grace, Easter, and Green Wheat

The Easter Sunday pulpit was not bedecked with lillies. The cross was not draped with a cloth starched by a believer’s knotted hand. He didn’t wear ornate robes or look out upon rows of freshly washed faces. Father looked out upon his church and saw the families being housed there, seeking asylum from hell’s own fire.


Grace is being extended in the most tangible ways imaginable during the Anderson Creek fire.

God is in the trucker who rolls to a stop to unload bales of hay from Nebraska. The air brakes announce his arrival and, once unloaded, he carefully carries a box in his weathered hands. His offering is his wife’s cinnamon rolls baked in the early hours and packed carefully to bless someone who needs sweet grace.  Continue reading

Deliberate Communication: Tips to Build Your Brand Online

Just as important as the mechanics, grammar, and clarity of your message, is the role it plays in the whole of the development and cultivation of your brand online.
I recently posted a photo of a cow I call Grumpy Cow, a play on the Grumpy Cat that fills the Internet with more cat

hilarity than really necessary. Grumpy Cow has a frowning face but her attitude is demure. Around here, the mantra tends to revolve around there being too many great cows in the world to own mean ones. I’m slow so I wholeheartedly agree.

The photo of Grumpy Cow was quite popular and garnered many shared posts of other peoples’ own versions. One member of an ag group in which the photo was shared messaged me and suggested that we sell Grumpy Cow before someone gets hurt.


Even though Grumpy Cow caused a small stir, she’s a valuable piece of my big picture. She’s clearly thrilled.

While my communication was deliberate, the response was one I Continue reading

Flames and Unwavering Praise

A small group of rancher’s wives huddle together in a kitchen to share the burden of the wait. The flames have passed this home and the cattle are accounted for. The pasture is gone “but just think,” one says, absently twirling her wedding band on her finger, “how green it’ll be in a few weeks.”

“Lord,” one woman murmers, her voice is sweet and steeped in the twang of red dirt country. “We come before Your throne today to thank You.”

fire coats

Photo taken near Coats, Kansas.  Photo by Julie Messmore Garofolo via Facebook.

She and her husband lost every acre of summer grass Continue reading